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  • Cultural Record KeepersLittlefield Fund for Southern History, University Libraries, University of Texas at Austin
  • David B. Gracy II

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During its ninety-four years the Littlefield Fund for Southern History at the University of Texas at Austin has assembled in the archives and libraries of the university an incomparable resource for research on the eleven states of the South and their place in American history. Established in 1914 and supplemented during the remaining six years of donor George Washington Littlefield’s life (1842–1920) and through his will, the Littlefield Fund for Southern History was created and continues [End Page 481] to gather material that “shall be of fundamental value for the full and impartial study of the South and of its part in American History.” The Littlefield Collection has two great strengths. First, emphasis has been put upon the words “its part in American History” so that any aspect of the life, culture, and history of the South and its relation to developments elsewhere in the country has been within its scope. Moreover, it has not been focused narrowly on the South. Second, use of items purchased for the Littlefield Collection has been facilitated by mingling the acquisitions with related material throughout the university library, rather than segregating them as a separate physical collection.

Early in his tenure as a University of Texas regent from 1911 to 1920 Littlefield expressed in no uncertain terms the feeling of Confederate veterans in Texas such as himself that the textbooks from which American history was being taught took a Northern perspective on Southern history in general and the Civil War in particular. History professor Eugene C. Barker responded that “the remedy for the situation is perfectly simple. In the last analysis it is merely a matter of money to collect the historical materials of the South, and time to use them. Until this collection is made the resolutions and protests of patriotic societies against the misrepresentation of the South are ‘as sounding brass and tinkling cymbals.’” No school was seriously collecting such documentation; the University of North Carolina and Louisiana State University, respectively, were spending $300 and $100 annually on Southern materials. Receiving no response to his invitation to fellow veterans to contribute toward a fund for purchase of the necessary materials, Littlefield on April 24, 1914, with a donation and pledge of $25,000, established the Littlefield Fund.

Although the designer of the Littlefield Collection bookplate is unknown, the crest it features was taken from that on the Littlefield Home. The intertwined letters GWL on the shield, surrounded by stems of leaves, all worked in iron, appear on each of the two sets of main entrance doors of the grand Victorian structure Littlefield built across the street from the university in 1894. The home was bequeathed to the university in 1920 and has been used by the university since the death of Littlefield’s wife, Alice, in 1935.

Born in Mississippi in 1842, Littlefield moved with his family to Texas when he was eight years old. Unsuccessful at farming, he started in the cattle business in 1871 and by the 1890s had become a leading cattleman, rancher, and banker in Texas and New Mexico. Littlefield and his wife moved to Austin in 1883, the year the University of Texas opened. Though childless, Littlefield funded attendance at the university for at least twenty-nine relatives. His donations during his lifetime and by [End Page 482] bequest totaled more than $3 million and included purchase with a single check for $225,000 of the library of Chicago financier John Henry Wrenn. Those six thousand volumes of first and rare editions of mostly English and American authors formed the first rare book collection acquired by the university. Littlefield gave more to the university than any other individual during its first fifty years.

Over the years all types of materials have been secured for the Little-field Southern History Collection, from personal papers and records of organizations to scholarly studies, from oral history to ephemera, from works of art and newspapers to photographic documentation, maps, and government documents. Subject areas include history, agriculture, anthropology, architecture, art, black studies...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2166-3033
Print ISSN
2164-8034
Pages
pp. 481-483
Launched on MUSE
2008-11-12
Open Access
No
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